hold my class with the donkeys

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dewylotus

Senior Member
chinese
When I hold my class with the donkeys that our washerman brings to carry away the clothes and I warn her that I am the schoolmaster, she will scream for no reason and call me dâdâ. [elder brother]-------From The Crescent Moon by Rabindranath Tagor.

I hold my class with the donkeys,I cannot understand this part of the sentence.Please help me.Thanks.
 
  • Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    No poet here either!


    This prose poem is a comment on how a very small child sees the world, in the words of a young boy telling his mother how "childish" his little sister is, almost complaining about it but also in wonderment at her lack of understanding of the world in general. He refers mostly to how she reacts to his games, her not understanding what she's supposed to do.
    Four other lines illustrate this -

    She does not know the difference between the lights in the streets and the stars.
    When we play at eating with pebbles, she thinks they are real food, and tries to put them into her mouth.
    When I open a book before her and ask her to learn her a, b, c, she tears the leaves with her hands and roars for joy at nothing; this is your baby's way of doing her lesson.
    When I shake my head at her in anger and scold her and call her naughty, she laughs and thinks it great fun
    One of the boy's games is to pretend, when the washerwoman comes to his house, that her donkeys are school children and he is their teacher. She'll be using the donkeys to carry the laundry as she picks up the dirty items and delivers the clean ones. Perhaps his mother will give her some refreshment and have a chat with her, so she's in the house long enough for the boy to have this game of 'schools' with the donkeys.
    I don't know about getting laundry done in China, but I get my husband's shirts done. In NYC we had them collected and delivered by the laundry. Here in the UK some people get their ironing done and the woman who does the ironing comes to get it and bring it back. Only she's driving a car!

    I am not sure why the little girl screams - we have to suppose she's afraid of school and teachers and is too young to understand the notion of ''pretend" games. Maybe Indian teachers were very strict but I have noticed that when children 'play schools', the one who's the teacher is often very strict indeed far more than school teachers really are.

    Added: I just had the thought that maybe donkeys and school children were beaten with sticks at this time, so of course the baby would be scared if part of the game involved hitting the donkeys.

    :)
    Hermione
     
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    rusalka_bg

    Senior Member
    Serbian
    This is just plying games, as with pebbles as a real food. He is pretending that donkeys are his pupils and that he is a schoolmaster.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree with a lot of Hermione's interpretation, though I think the speaker is actually the schoolmaster (my class, for instance). 'Mother' could easily be a way for the schoolmaster to address her, I think.

    I suspect that the child screams because she has been pulled out of her dream world.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I agree with a lot of Hermione's interpretation, though I think the speaker is actually the schoolmaster (my class, for instance). 'Mother' could easily be a way for the schoolmaster to address her, I think.
    I think the speaker is the elder brother and the younger child is not going along with his game of pretending to be a schoolmaster.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Maybe. What makes you think this?
    I suppose I interpret it this way because the "schoolmaster's" class is made up of donkeys, I'm not familiar with donkeys who belong to washerwomen going to school, and the young child calls him what appears to be the equivalent of "bubba".
    Why do you take "my class" as proof that the class is real rather than pretend?
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I agree with Myridon and Hermione.

    The section is titled Superior, and is addressed to "Mother;" it seems clear that the whole thing is an older (but still quite young) child asserting his superiority by telling Mom how silly the baby is.

    She thinks the streetlights are stars! She thinks pebbles are real food! When I pretend to be Dad, she thinks I'm talking about our actual Dad, and starts looking for him! And when I try to teach differental equations to the donkeys, she cries and calls me Big Brother! God, what a DUMB LITTLE KID! :D

    Edit: I haven't read the whole thing yet, but what I have read of it - it's absolutely brilliant. Thanks to dewylotus for bringing this to our attention.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I suppose I interpret it this way because the "schoolmaster's" class is made up of donkeys, I'm not familiar with donkeys who belong to washerwomen going to school, and the young child calls him what appears to be the equivalent of "bubba".
    Why do you take "my class" as proof that the class is real rather than pretend?
    I take nothing as proof. I actually have come to agree with you and Hermione. Thank you for causing me to look at it again.

    I think the point that determined it for me was the way in which the speaker talks of father.

    I don't think the speaker is old enough to master differential equations, however, and that idea seems to run counter to the agricultural themes in the poem.

    Not all the poems in the collection are in this voice, as I expect people have noticed.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I think the point that determined it for me was the way in which the speaker talks of father.
    The part about the father determines for me that the speaker is not the father but is someone who calls the child's father "Father". The child would not expect the schoolmaster to address her father as "Father" so should not be fooled (I assume the child is not interested in the schoolmaster's father for some reason). It's the brother saying "Father, ..." that makes the child think that "Father" might be nearby.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The part about the father determines for me that the speaker is not the father but is someone who calls the child's father "Father". The child would not expect the schoolmaster to address her father as "Father" so should not be fooled (I assume the child is not interested in the schoolmaster's father for some reason). It's the brother saying "Father, ..." that makes the child think that "Father" might be nearby.
    Precisely. This is the point I was making.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have just noticed that it is not a washerwoman but a washerman. I read it as washerwoman because the people who earned their living by washing always are or used to be women in Western European culture. He's writing about childhood in what was then India.

    Hermione
     
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